Series Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 5 (2000 – 2001)

Don’t worry, there will be more christmas content coming your way. Just thought I’d give you a palate cleanser. And what better than a continuation of my “Buffy” rewatch? So let’s go! Oh, and brief spoiler for the end of season 4 in the plot section.

Ladies and gents… “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 5.

With Adam dead and gone, it seems that Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and her friends can finally go back to some kind of (ab)normal. This however does of course get a bit interrupted when a strange and powerful woman (Clare Kramer) starts causing chaos in the town. So Buffy has to find a way to stop her, all while dealing with the usual monsters of Sunnydale, and also trying to keep her mother (Kristine Sutherland) and sister (Michelle Trachtenberg) safe. People who’ve followed along with the show up until now probably ask “Wait, sister? Dafuh?”. And yes, Buffy has a sister now. While that seems strange and forced at first, over the course of the season we find out why she’s suddenly there, and I think that narrative thread is pretty interesting. And the stuff with Glory (the aforementioned strange and powerful woman) is pretty good too. It’s some of the one-off monster of the week stuff inbetween that isn’t great. The season does overall feel more focused than season 4, it’s a generally better package. But that doesn’t stop it from having some duds throughout, which does bring it down a bit. But I do still like this season’s story quite a bit. It has some great highs, and it has some really harsh moments that hit hard. Yes, the lows are definitely low, but the story this season generally has enough highs to be well into the positive side of things.

The characters in this remain the absolute highlight. The returning cast of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, Anthony Head, Nicholas Brendon, James Marsters, Kristine Sutherland, Emma Caulfield, and Amber Benson are all great, and they all (for the most part) do great stuff with them. So let’s talk about some newer people. First up we have Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn, Buffy’s little sister who totes mcgotes has been in the show all this time and wasn’t added this season for the sake of a new plot. Okay, I joke. But seriously, the way they implement the character is pretty interesting. And Trachtenberg does an okay job with her performance. Next we have Clare Kramer as Glory, the new big bad. She’s a chatty, charistmatic, and fun villain, a breath of fresh air after the dullness of the previous season’s antagonism. And Kramer is great in the role.

The score for this season was composed by Thomas Wanker (I do not envy that name), with a little additional help by Christophe Beck. And the music here is really good. It’s not as top tier as Beck’s older scores, and often falls back on slightly more generic stings and such. But it’s still enjoyable enough and works decently well for this season.

Season 5 of “Buffy” was written and directed by a whole bunch of different people, and they generally did a good job with it. Scenes flow pretty well, and shot composition is generally quite pleasing. There’s even some decently impressive use of restraint in a few certain moments in the season. You can tell that they’ve perfected their craft here. Even in the weaker episodes, the directin, effects, and such are still really good.

The show/season has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes the season has an 82% positive rating. On Metacritic the season has an audience score of 5.6/10. And on imdb.com the show has a score of 8.2/10.

While still not able to recapture the magic of seasons 2 or 3, season 5 of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is still a really good season of tv, and a major step up from the 5th iteration. It has a good story, great characters, really good performances, really good music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 5 is an 8.32/10. So while flawed, it’s still worth watching.

My review of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 5 is now completed.

Two more seasons to go.

Series Review: Castlevania – Season 3 (2020)

Took me a bit longer to get around to this than I originally wanted. But now we’re finally here. So let’s talk about this show for a bit. Oh, and there will be some spoilers for season 2… so you have been warned.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Castlevania” season 3!

A few months have passed since Dracula’s demise, and everyone’s kind of gone their separate ways. The peace isn’t kept for long however, as the various characters all run into their own share of problems. Trying to break down the narrative of this season in a well-written and concise way without getting into too many spoilers is difficult, as there are about as many threads as a season of “Game of Thrones”. But I’ll do my best. First off we have Trevor (Richard Armitage) and Sypha (Alejandra Reynoso) who find themselves visiting a mysterious village that seemingly holds more secrets than they at first let on. Then you have Alucard (James Callis) adjusting to the solitude of living in Dracula’s castle. Then there’s Carmilla (Jaime Murray) and her fellow vampires scheming to take over the world. And then there’s Isaac (Adetokumboh M’Cormack), building his army of night creatures and traveling across the world. But then there’s also the mysterious newcomer Saint Germain (Bill Nighy) and his schemes. Like I said, there’s a lot, and I didn’t even touch on all of them, either due to spoilers or fear of overextending this section. But believe me when I say that the ten episodes of this season cover A LOT of shit. But despite covering so much, it never gets confusing. This doesn’t mean that all aspects get treated with an equal amount of care and devotion, which at times can make this feel like a little bit of a middle chapter, but I do still find the narrative very engrossing. You get this epic fantasy tale, which also mixes in clever mystery, some gruesomely dark horror, a lot of heart and humor, and even a bit of enjoyable human drama. It’s great stuff, yo.

The characters in this, both old and new are colorful, flawed, layered, fascinating, and highly entertaining. The older ones get a little development, and newer ones do too. All of them are highly interesting and I loved seeing them. And the voice cast is fucking phenomenal, featuring such talented folks as Richard Armitage, Alejandra Reynoso, James Callis, Jaime Murray, Adetokumboh M’Cormack, Theo James, Jessica Brown Findlay, Jason Isaacs, Navid Negahban, Ivana Milisevic, Rila Fukushima, Toro Uchikado, Bill god damn Nighy, and more.

As with the previous two seasons, the score here was composed by Trevor Morris. And he absolutely knocked it out of the god damn park. He manages to cover so much ground with the various tracks in the show. From big bombastic brass, to more subtle strings, to even a bit of really intense synth, the dude did a fantastic job.

All episodes of “Castlevania” season 3 were written by Warren Ellis, with direction being handled by brother Sam and Adam Deats. And not that previous seasons were slouches in the animation department, but fuckin’ hell, the animation this season is the best it’s ever been. In quieter moments it looks really good, but it’s really in action scenes where it shines. Really captures the intensity and insanity that would happen from these battles. The final two episodes especially show this, as they have some of the best battles I’ve seen in animation. It’s one of the most well animated shows I’ve ever watched.

This show/season has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating. On Metacritic it has an audience score of 7.2/10. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.2/10.

Season 3 is another winning batch of episodes for “Castlevania”, giving us more of what I’ve come to love from the show. It has a great story, great characters, great performances, fantastic music, and fantastic directing/animation. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Castlevania” season 3 is a 9.92/10. Which does mean that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Castlevania” season 3 is now completed

This remains the best video game adaptation.

Series Review: Dracula (2020)

Look, I know that the Month of Spooks is over, so I should logically take a break from horror stuff for a bit. But I’ve been watching this recently, and I have some shit I have to say about it.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Dracula”, the Netflix/BBC adaptation.

Transylvania, the late 1800s. Jonathan Harker (John Heffernan) finds himself recounting his less than pleasant stay with Count Dracula (Claes Bang) to a kindly, if sassy nun (Dolly Wells). As we go through the three episodes of this show, we get to see what happened before, during, and after Jonathan’s meeting with this nun. And the narrative in this show is quite fascinating, because it fluctuates wildly in quality… sort of. Episode 1 is honestly fantastic, a scary, fun, and emotionally engaging way to bring us into this new take on a classic tale. Episode 2 isn’t as fantastic, but it’s still a really solid episode of television. Then episode 3 completely shits the bed. There are good ideas within that episode, but the drop in quality is still ridiculously vertical. How do you go from one of the most exciting and electrifying new horror-dramas around to that mess, that quickly? I don’t know. But while that last episode can be classified as bad, what came before is good enough that I can’t give the show/story too much grief. Two thirds being this good has to count for something. And it does. I can still say I liked a lot of the story on display, even if there’s still that one final chunk that tarnished the overall package.

The characters in this are fascinating, because some of them are really fascinating and engaging, and some of them are in episode 3 (I’m being a salty bitch, aren’t I?). Let’s start with the Count himself, played by Danish actor Claes Bang. He is one charismatic motherfucker, manipulating people with his charm, wits, and general presence. And Bang is absolutely amazing in the role. Next is Dolly Wells as Agatha, the nun I mentioned earlier. She has quite a fascinating presence within the narrative that I won’t spoil, because it’s genuinely interesting. But what I can say is that Dolly Wells is great in the role, and has some excellent chemistry with Bang when they get to verbally spar. John Heffernan is great as Jonathan Harker, Morfydd Clark does an okay job as Mina. And we get some great supporting work from people like Sacha Dhawan, Mark Gatiss, Jonathan Aris, and more. Many actors do a really good job, and some aren’t great (guess where they were).

The score for the show was composed by David Arnold and Michael Price, and I think they did a fantastic job with it. That’s right, no shade thrown here, just admiration for good compositions. Their music here is creepy, intense, emotionally charged, and just overall helps add to a lot of scenes throughout the three episodes.

Based on the classic Bram Stoker novel, “Dracula” is a Netflix/BBC collaboration written and created by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat (who also gave us “Sherlock”). And as discussed before, the writing takes a bit of a dive in that final episode. But leading up to that, this is a well written show. And the directing, split up between Paul McGuigan, Damon Thomas, and Jonny Campbell, is generally great. There’s a good sense of pacing to the directing, no shot or moment lingers too long or too briefly. And when paired with the beautiful cinematography, set design, and visual effects, you get one of the most visually arresting tv shows I’ve had the pleasure of looking at. Speaking of visual stuff: There’s some really brutal and grisly body horror going on throughout this show, and it is awesome. Kudos to the crew for going all out on that.

This show has gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 70% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 75/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.8/10.

While it does end on a sour note, “Dracula” still has enough good stuff to warrant a recommendation. It has a mixed plot, mixed characters, great performances, great music, and excellent directing/cinematography/effects. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Dracula” is a 7.12/10. So while it is heavily tarnished by that final episode, I can still say that it’s worth watching.

My review of “Dracula” is now completed.

One, two, three episodes. Ah-ah-ah!

Series Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 4 (1999 – 2000)

Disclaimer: This is not an official Month of Spooks post. I know it could easily slot into that, but it’s not. Mom and I simply got to this point in our rewatch of the show, and I might as well review the season now before I forget. So anyhow, let’s go.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 4.

With high school behind them, Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and her friends can finally move on to something new and exciting… College! But just because they’re attending a new school it doesn’t mean they’ll get away from the vampires, demons, and a shadowy military organization… Yeah, this season gets a little different. Season 4 is a very ambitious one. Sure, that could be said about seasons 2 and 3 as well, but at least that ambition felt somewhat reasonable. However, the ambitious nature of the fourth season doesn’t always yield great results. There are a lot of problems with the overarching narrative this season, especially in the second half of the season, where a particular narrative choice happens. And even some of the one-offs aren’t great. Sure, this season does have the terrifyingly fantastic “Hush”, and the gut-wrenching “Wild at Heart”. But then there are some less than stellar ones too. Do I hate the story/stories here? No. I do kind of enjoy it, but it does feel slightly off overall.

As per usual, the characters of this season are what make it… for the most part. The main cast of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon, Anthony Head, and Seth Green are all great and all get some good development. Some recurring guest stars such as James Marsters, Kristine Sutherland, and Emma Caulfield are also great. Now, let’s talk about newcomers… or at least one. Marc Blucas plays Riley, a teacher’s assistant who Buffy meets at college, and he serves as a bit of a new love interest. And while his character development is fairly whatever, I do think Blucas does a damn fine job with his performance.

As with the previous two seasons, the music was composed by Christophe Beck, and once again he did a damn good job. It was bombastic, it was subtle, it was emotional, it was fun… Beck is just a great composer. And as per usual, there was a fair bit of licensed music throughout, and all the songs worked well for their respective scenes.

As with the other seasons, writing and directing for season 4 of “Buffy” was handled by a whole bunch of people. And while some of the writing could be less than stellar (as alluded to earlier), the directing generally kept a decent level of quality. Of course this is highlighted the best in the season’s best episode “Hush”, which is just fucking masterful. But most other episodes are really well handled too. Even the effects are for the most part quite good. You can tell that they had found a rhythm with the craft of the show.

This season has gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 67% positive rating. On Metacritic it has an audience score of 7.3/10. And while there’s no season average, on imdb.com the show sits firmly on an 8.2/10.

Season 4 of “Buffy” is a bit of a mixed bag, but overall I do still enjoy it (maybe my bias for these characters is showing). It has okay story, great characters, great performances, great music, and really good directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Buffy” season 4 is a 7.23/10. So while quite flawed, it’s still worth watching.

My review of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 4 is now completed.

I guess college does ruin things… I’m joking, stay in school, kids.

Movie Review: Dracula (1931)

The Month of Spooks is something I do every year as a celebration of the spookier side of entertainment. However, I have seldom looked back on the REALLY old stuff, the big classics. So this year I sought to change that ever so slightly. This means that every other review you’ll see this month will be of a film from the Universal Monster Classics blu-ray set. So there… variety!

Ladies and gentlemen… “Dracula”!

Transylvania. A real estate agent named Renfield (Dwight Frye) finds himself a guest of the enigmatic Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi), only to succumb to the Count’s will and become his servant. The two then set out for London, where Dracula will continue his reign of terror. We all know the basic setup for this story, let’s not kid around with that. But how does it hold up in terms of storytelling here? Pretty good, actually (fucking anticlimactic, I know). It’s a simple gothic tale with occasional hints towards more nuance within certain developments, and I like that stuff. I do however have some issues with it. Those issues pertain mainly to the pacing throughout. Sometimes it rushes through parts and sometimes it drags a little. It doesn’t completely break the film in half, but it is noticeable enough that it should be mentioned. But overall it’s still an enjoyable little tale.

The characters in this are fine, they serve the story decently enough. Bela Lugosi plays the titular vampire in this. A silver-tongued, polite gentleman who also occasionally gives people a nibble or two on the neck. I enjoy his presence, he’s a good villain/monster for this story. And Lugosi’s performance is of course great, a wonderful mix of quiet menace and mildly campy flamboyance. The other one I wanna go into some detail with is Dwight Frye as Renfield, the poor fool who becomes Dracula’s pawn. A seemingly decent dude turned madman. He’s probably the most interesting character in this, as we see he’s seemingly both intelligent and crazy, making for a surprisingly nuanced character. And Frye is great in the role, really selling Renfield’s recent insanity in a way that genuinely creeps me out. And the rest of the cast, including people like Helen Chandler, David Manners, Edward Van Sloan, and more, all do really well in their respective roles.

What’s fascinating about this movie’s score is that it doesn’t really exist. The movie does use excerpts from one or two stage shows at certain points (mostly notably one from “Swan Lake”), but for the most part this film lacks any real score. But that’s okay. Not every film or scene needs music.

Based on the book of the same name by Bram Stoker, “Dracula” was directed by Tod Browning (with uncredited help from Karl Freund), and I think the craft on display here is terrific. While we’ve seen many homages and parodies and references to the visual style of this movie in tons of other projects, there’s something truly special about seeing this original take on the classic gothic visuals. The visuals in this are fucking breathtaking, from the sets to the lighting to the framing, it all just looks amazing to this day. Sure, some of the effects don’t look as good today, but I think that adds to the charm of it. I just love that old school gothic aesthetic.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 92% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 71/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.5/10.

While its occasionally wonky pacing drags it down a little, “Dracula” is still a really good gothic horror flick. It has a good store, okay characters, really good performances, and great directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Bleh*. My final score for “Dracula” is an 8,77/10. So while a little flawed, it’s still definitely worth buying!

My review of “Dracula” is now completed.

Bela Lugosi, legend. Dwight Frye, MVP.

Series Review: What We Do in the Shadows – Season 2 (2020)

Taking a break from my dive into my own country’s filmography, just so I can talk about a show I’ve watched over the past ten weeks.

Ladies and gentlemen… “What We Do in the Shadows” season 2!

We once again follow  Nandor (Kayvan Novak), Laszlo (Matt Berry), Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), and Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch), as they deal with all sorts of supernatural hijinks throughout their daily lives. All the while their human familiar Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) tries to keep his recently discovered vampire slaying legacy secret. So it’s another season of vampiric shenanigans. And just like the first season, the story here are quite a bit of fun. They really went for a deep dive in exploring their own world, as well as old school vampire mythology. And I found it all very entertaining. Sure, there are parts of the show where it dips every so slightly, but generally I have nothing negative to say about the stuff going on here. It’s a silly bit of fun with a surprising amount of thought behind it all.

The characters are colorful, charming, funny, and overall just really interesting. Some of them even go through a surprising amount of development throughout the season. The returning lead cast of Kayvan Novak, Matt Berry, Natasia Demetriou, Harvey Guillén, and Mark Proksch are all terrific once again. And the guest stars this season (that I won’t mention by name, because it might spoil things) are terrific too.

The music for the show was composed by Mark Mothersbaugh, and I think it’s really good. Really captures the sort of gothic, semi-Victorian vibe that they go for with these centuries-old vampires, while still keeping a somewhat cheeky/silly vibe to it. Really fits the show splendidly.

This season was written and directed by a whole bunch of different people, and I think they all did an excellent job with it. The directing is great, they really make the most of the mockumentary format, making for a lot of energetic cleverly directed scenes. The editing is also really good, a lot of good cuts and such going on throughout. And since the show is a comedy, I guess I should briefly touch on the show’s sense of humor. It’s really funny, at times even gutbustingly hilarious. It’s very silly, relying on a mix of wordplay, slapstick, and a hint of raunchy stuff. Sure, the show’s sense of humor might not be for everyone, but I certainly love it.

This season/show has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 81/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,4/10.

Season 2 of “What We Do in the Shadows” continues the show’s winning streak, with another ten episodes of funny supernatural antics. It has fun stories, great characters, great performances, good music, really good directing, and hilarious comedy. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “What We Do in the Shadows” season 2 is a 9,80/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “What We Do in the Shadows” season 2 is now completed.

BAT!

Series Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 2 (1997 – 1998)

As some of you may know, earlier this year my mother and I started our rewatch of this show. And I promised to document said journey. Episode-by-episode thoughts will be posted to my twitter as soon as an episode is watched. And as each season gets finished, I will (as seen here) write a review of them all. Enough dawdling, review time!

Ladies and gentlemen… “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 2!

Summer holiday is over, which means Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) makes her return to Sunnydale after spending some time with her dad in L.A. Which means it’s back to business as usual: Trying to get good grades in school while also working to save the people of Sunnydale from various supernatural threats, including the newly arrived vampires Spike (James Marsters) and Drusilla (Juliet Landau). Season 2 takes the basic setup of the first season, and improves upon it tenfold thanks to increased budget and confidence in the writing. The main arc(s) in this season mesmerizes, creating an emotionally resonant experience that leaves a unique emotionally visceral impact by the end of it all. The highs of this season are even higher than the first one. Yes, there are still a dud or two, such as the much maligned “Go Fish” or the messy “Bad Eggs”. But then you get some truly awesome experiences in exchange, such as the wonderful “Halloween” or the spectacular and gut-wrenching “Passion”. So while there are a few less than stellar episodes, the overall package is a huge leap in quality from the first season, making for a fucking terrific batch of stories.

The characters in the show are still very colorful, fun, and entertaining, but also get a shitload of development, deepening our bond to them even further. Sarah Michelle Gellar of course returns as the titular vampire slayer. She gets to go through a loooot of stuff this season, and whoa, by the end she has developed so much as a character, which is truly compelling. And Gellar is great in the role, really getting to flex her acting muscles even more than in the first season. David Boreanaz returns as Angel, the vampire with a soul… that means he’s not a bitey bastard anymore, for you uninitiated folks out there. And like Buffy, he goes through a lot of stuff this season that is really interesting to see, both in how it affects him as a character, and how it affects his relationship with Buffy. And Boreanaz is great in the role. Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon, and Charisma Carpenter return as Buffy’s friends, and they’re all great, both on the character and acting front. Anthony Head is still wonderful as Buffy’s Watcher/mentor Giles. Now let’s talk about some newcomers… namely Spike and Drusilla, the newly arrived vampires. Spike is an anarchic punk, an absolute dick who likes to cause chaos and fear where he goes… and that kind of makes him the best character, because he’s just a blast to watch, especially since James Marsters clearly has a blast with the role. Next is Drusilla, Spike’s girlfriend, and resident crazy person. I don’t wanna say much more, since I find her personality and arc to be more fascinating to experience rather than told. But I’ll say that she’s interesting and Juliet Landau does a good job in the role. And with people like Robia LaMorte, Kristine Sutherland, Armin Shimerman, Seth Green, Danny Strong, and many more filling out the supporting cast, you get a lot of solid performances.

Season 1 composer Walter Murphy did not return for this second go-around, with compsing duties being handed over to Christophe Beck. And just like with the storytelling and character arcs, the music of season 2 is a vast improvement on the first season. Way fewer synthesizers to emulate orchestras are used, with real instruments getting to take center stage. And while there are some big, bombastic pieces for action set pieces, the overall vibe of the score this season is somber, giving off an understated feeling of sadness that still manages to have some hope behind it. Of course this is best shown in the track “Close Your Eyes”, but it does show in a few other pieces too. Beck really brought his A-game here. There’s a few licensed tracks used throughout too, and they’re fine.

As with season 1, Joss Whedon and a bunch of other cool people handled writing and directing for the season, and generally it is all really well handled (yes, even in bad episodes). It’s well shot, fight choreography ranges from alright to really good, the craft is just generally improved from the first time around (wow, saying that is really getting old). You can tell that the creatives behind the show really cared, trying to bring it to 110% each time (with varying results). Even the effects are improved… even though that doesn’t say much, because we’re talking about late 90s tv budget CGI for certain effects. The practical stuff looks fantastic, but hooooo boy, some of them there fancy computer effects aren’t so fancy anymore. It doesn’t ruin the experience for me, but it’s worth pointing out. Generally the craft here is terrific.

The show/season has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 92% positive rating. On Metacritic it exists, but with no critics rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,2/10.

While it does have one or two low points, season 2 of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is still a great sophomore outing that takes its simple premise and elevates it to something really special. It has a great story, great characters, great performances, great music, and great writing/directing/action/effects. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 2 is a 9,78/10. So yes, that is correct, it does indeed get the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

Season 2 of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is now completed.

“Go Fish”, more like “Go Fuck Itself”.

Series Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 1 (1997)

Oh hello there. So you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about this show. Well, frankly, it’s because I’ve been a fan of it for quite a while, but it’s been years since I actually properly watched it. So my mother and I recently sat ourselves down with the DVD box set and started a rewatch. And that made me think “Hey, maybe I could talk about each season on my blog as we get through them”. So that’s what we’re gonna do for however many months this’ll take. I’ve been looking for a long-term thing to do on this blog (like the Mangoldathon I did in 2017), so this might be a decent one for now. Anyhow, let’s get on with it.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 1.

After she gets kicked out of her old school, Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) moves to a small town called Sunnydale to start over. However, things aren’t just classes, boys, and parties, as the town lies upon an ancient secret called the Hellmouth, which brings all kinds of demonic bullshit to the area. And since Buffy is the Slayer, a young woman chosen to fight off demons, it is up to her, with the help of her new mentor (Anthony Head) and friends (Nichols Brendon, Alyson Hannigan) to deal with any demonic threats terrorizing Sunnydale, including the sinister vampire lord known as the Master (Mark Metcalf). The story here is a weird roller coaster. When it focuses on main stuff regarding Buffy’s development as a Slayer, and the Master’s plan to take over the world, it can be quite interesting, as the creators put their own unique spin on vampire mythology that still honors the traditions set by older adaptations. But then there’s also a fair bit of filler throughout, which is very hit-and-miss. From the really dumb “I, Robot, You, Jane” to the surprisingly high concept “Nightmares”, you can feel that they hadn’t quite found their footing/voice yet. This does not dismiss the entire season as outright bad though, despite its tonal and stylistic inconsistencies. It just means the road is rocky, but is filled with enjoyable and sometimes even compelling highlights (see the aforementioned “Nightmares”). So overall the story stuff here is… fine.

Where the plot may falter at times, the characters make up for it thanks to being interesting and entertaining. Sarah Michelle Gellar plays Buffy, the titular teenage vampire slayer. Like every girl her age, she doesn’t want all this responsibility of having to save the world, but is of course begrudgingly drawn into it because it’s the right thing to do, and she’s a good person and all that. And seeing her duty vs. desire sides clash creates some interesting dynamics for her. And Gellar is really good in the role. Nicholas Brendon plays Xander, one of Buffy’s new friends. He’s a bit of a dork, but also knows when to stand up for those that need it. He gets a tiny bit of development this season, but not enough to make him as good as he could be, though he is still an enjoyable presence who I wouldn’t trade for anything. And Brendon is really good in the role. Next we have Alyson Hannigan as Willow, Buffy’s other friend. A shy, slightly timid nerd, she’s the brains of the main trio, but it’s also clear that she has a tougher side to her somewhere deep down. And Hannigan is really good in the role. Anthony Head as Giles, the mentor/Watcher is great, bringing a sort of father figure presence to the group. Charisma Carpenter plays a mean girl at the school, and she kills it in that role. Mark Metcalf is deliciously villainous and campy as the evil Master. And there’s a lot of other supporting characters/actors I could talk about, but I won’t, but they’re all good.

The score for the season was composed by Walter Murphy, and I know the show at this point ran on a ham sandwich budget, but jeez Louise, it sounds bad. Not like “Resident Evil” director’s cut bad, but it’s not great. They have fun ideas for some action/horror tunes throughout, but due to its weird synth-pretending-to-be-orchestra sound, it often falters. But then we also get a few piano-based pieces throughout, and those sound great. So I’m weirdly split on it, because parts sound less than stellar, and others sound really good. Oh, and the main theme by rock band Nerf Herder is pretty good too.

Based on the movie of the same name, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was created for the WB network by Joss Whedon, who also wrote and directed some of the episodes, with some help on other episodes by other cool people. And here’s where I have a lot of praise for the show. It’s pretty well known that season 1 of “Buffy” was running on a ham sandwich budget, which can often break a lot of shows. But the crew really push every penny to its absolute god damn limit. Yes, some of the effects look a bit… not great, but for the most part the crew does wonders with the few means they have of creating monsters, eerie sets, and vampire slaying tools. There’s even some decent shot composition every now and then.

The show/season has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 92% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 80/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,2/10.

While it’s a little rocky throughout, season 1 of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is still a solid start to the show. It has an okay plot, really good characters, great performances, meh music, and good writing/directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is a 7,80/10. So while flawed, I’d still say that it’s worth watching.

My review of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 1 is now completed.

Nice to have another blog series going.

Movie Review: Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2001)

Well this is a first for the Month of Spooks… animation. So here we go.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust”.

When a girl (Wendee Lee) is kidnapped by a vampire, her family hires a legendary bounty hunter (Andrew Phlipot) to get her back. The setup is an old school one, but the way they handle it feels fresh. For one, it’s set in the distant future… but it also looks like the old west. This blend of different styles makes for a fun and unique universe. But it’s not just the world building that works about this movie. “Bloodlust” really takes time to weave a surprising amount of nuance throughout, making me really care about what really happens throughout the story, be it larger, epic moments or smaller, intimate drama.

Like with story before them, the characters in this movie have a bit more nuance than expected. At first they can seem like stereotypes. Broody, stern, Hannibal from “A-Team”, asshat. But if one sticks around, the characters get fleshed out quite a bit, making them a hell of a lot more compelling. First up we have D(E,F,G), the titular character at the center of the story. He’s the broody fucker I mentioned before… but he’s also a compassionate, strong-willed, and endearing guy who works to stay on the side of good. And I think Andrew Philpot does a great job with the voice work. Next we have Leila (cue Derek and the Dominos), another bounty hunter searching for the kidnapped girl. Tough, determined, stern, and also has a good heart. And she grows quite a fun rapport with D. She’s voiced by Pamela Adlon, who I think does a damn fine job with it. Wendee Lee does a good job as the kidnapped girl, who we meet multiple times throughout. And the vampire that did said kidnapping, played wonderfully by John Rafter Lee, is quite an interesting antagonist. Again, all the characters are pretty interesting. And the supporting cast is great.

The score for the movie was composed by Marco D’Ambrosio, who did a wonderful job with it. It’s moody and atmospheric, but also big and epic, as well as emotionally charged. It perfectly helps create the vibe the movie is going for, which is has a familiar sense of gothic brood, while still feeling fresh and unique for this movie.

Based on a manga series by Hideyuki Kikuchi, “Bloodlust” was directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, who I think did a wonderful job with it. His direction manages to keep the energy and pacing up throughout, without making it feel like he’s rushing things. He will let quiet moments simmer a bit, but without accidentally slipping into boredom. And holy fucking shit, the animation is stunning, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering the fact that Madhouse was the studio behind it (they make well animated stuff, yo). Combining Kawajiri’s meticulous direction with the animation talents at Madhouse was clever, as it makes for not only some gorgeously detailed wide shots, but also some insanely entertaining action scenes. It also makes it so the few pure horror bits we get become genuinely creepy. So well done, crew.

This movie has been generally well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 72% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 62/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,7/10.

“Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust” isn’t just a highly entertaining vampire action movie, but it’s also a surprisingly nuance movie that subverts a fair bit of expectations. It has a really good plot, great characters, great performances, great music, and great directing/animation. Time for my final score. *AHEM*. My final score for “Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust” is a 9,67/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust” is now completed.

Any time you have a character with single-letter names, I just wanna continue the alphabet after referring to them.
“So what’s the character’s name?”
“D”
“Interesting”
“E, F, G, H, I… “

Movie Review: From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

And the Month of Spooks continues. This time with a strange hybrid. So here we fucking go.

Ladies and gents… “From Dusk Till Dawn”.

A pair of criminals (George Clooney & Quentin Tarantino, yes really) are on the run for some horrible crimes they committed. To stay away from the law, they take refuge in a titty bar somewhere in Mexico. They are however in for a horrible surprise, when they find out that the people at the bar aren’t exactly what they appear to b- vampires, they’re vampires. So now we have our profane crime-thriller/vampire movie. And the story here is fine. Straightforward, but clashing in tones. One moment it’s this Tarantinian crime story, then it’s a family drama, then it’s horror, then it’s a dark comedy. While there are a lot of solid moments here, they don’t necessarily flow that well into each other, creating these tonal clashes. Like I said, there’s a lot of fun moments, and it does entertain in that sense, but the lack of good transitions does distract at times.

The characters in this are decently interesting, if a bit poorly defined at times. George Clooney plays Seth Gecko, one of the two brothers on the run from the law. He’s assertive, strict, bit of a dick, but does at times show a more human side (even if his exterior still screams asshole). He’s clearly the leader of the two, and he’s an interesting character to follow, even if he’s not very likable (which might put some people off). And Clooney is great in the role. Next we have Harvey Keitel as Jacob Fuller, a family man that’s been kidnapped by the Geckos. He’s a former preacher just trying to enjoy a nice trip with his kids, but that of course goes a bit awry. He’s a decently interesting guy, and Keitel is great in the role. Next we have Quentin Tarantino (yes, really) as Richie Gecko, Clooney’s younger brother. He’s a creepy psychopath. That’s all I’ll say, as I don’t wanna get into too much detail. And I honestly think Tarantino is good in this role, it’s probably the best performance I’ve seen from him. We also get supporting work from people like Juliette Lewis, Ernest Liu, Tom Savini, Danny Trejo, Salma Hayek, Fred Williamson, and more, all doing well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Graeme Revell, and it’s good. It’s not too prominent, but when it can be heard, it’s pretty good, creating some decent ambiance. The movie also has a fair bit of licensed tracks used throughout, a lot of them within the blues-rock genre, which not only fits the movie surprisingly well, but also is right up my alley. So yeah, this movie has good music.

“From Dusk Till Dawn” was written by Quentin Tarantino, and directed by Robert Rodriguez (not the last collaboration between the two). And Jesus heart-staking Christ, it’s obvious form a mile away. Tarantino’s dirty dialogue, Rodriguez’ energetic and oft campy direction, it’s all here in spades, and it gives the movie a nice sense of energy that keeps it from getting boring. It also does add a bit to the action scenes that exist in the movie, which are fun to watch, partly due to the stuff I just mentioned, and partly due to the really solid visual effects that are on display here.

This movie has gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 64% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 48/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,2/10.

So while “From Dusk Till Dawn” has a fair bit of flaws, I still enjoyed watching it. It has an okay story, okay characters, great performances, really good music, and really good writing/directing/effects. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “From Dusk Till Dawn” is a 7,56/10. So while flawed, I’d say that it’s worth renting.

My review of “From Dusk Till Dawn” is now completed.

Daaaark Night. It’s a Daaaark Night. What? It’s a good song. Even the movie knows it.